SOCCER-ITALY-SNEIJDER-LEAGUE:Inter's Sneijder could be perfect fit for Premier League
By Mark Meadows
LONDON (Reuters) - Inter Milan coach Andrea Stramaccioni is still holding out hope that Wesley Sneijder will play for the club again but a move to the Premier League looks the most obvious choice for the talented Dutch playmaker.
Sneijder, inspirational as Inter won the Champions League, Serie A and Italian Cup in 2010 under Jose Mourinho, has been dropped by the club for refusing to renegotiate his lucrative contract with purse strings being tightened at the San Siro.
A sale in the January transfer window therefore looks likely with reports saying the 28-year-old could be allowed to leave for as little as eight million pounds.
Tottenham Hotspur have been heavily linked with Sneijder in the media while Manchester United were previous admirers of a player who operates best behind the strikers and is notoriously difficult for Serie A defenders to pick up.
Players with a knack of finding that killer pass have thrived in the newly-cosmopolitan English top flight with Spaniards David Silva, Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla all excelling for Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Sneijder is in that class, proving his worth again when helping the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final, even if he has gone off the boil a little in the last two seasons having possibly stayed at a faltering Inter too long.
The contract wrangle might suggest he has outstayed his welcome but Stramaccioni is still leaving the door open for a return to the fourth-placed Serie A side.
"With regards to Sneijder, he knows that when a player is deserving I give him everything, if the opposite is true he stays out of the group," the coach told Italian TV on Friday.
"I am sure Wesley will make me believe again, a shirt is ready for him."
United looks a less likely destination than it did a year and a half ago when Alex Ferguson was crying out for a playmaker in the middle of the park following Paul Scholes' retirement.
Reports said a disagreement over Sneijder's hefty wages curtailed a deal and Scholes has since returned to the fold while young Tom Cleverley is improving and Shinji Kagawa made a promising start to life in the Premier League before injury.
A seven-point lead at the top at the halfway mark shows little needs fixing, in attack at least, at United.
Second-placed City have never been mentioned as suitors but Tottenham, in fourth, makes more sense as a destination despite Belgium's incisive Moussa Dembele signing from Fulham in August.
Dembele was bought as a replacement for Real Madrid-bound Luka Modric but said earlier this month that he was a "totally different player".
"He had different qualities and I have different qualities as well so I don't feel I have to do exactly what he did, I do my own game," Dembele said.
The Belgian has yet to be a big hit for Andre Villas-Boas' charges and with Spurs light up front with only Jermain Defoe, Emmanuel Adebayor and Clint Dempsey on the books, Sneijder's arrival would increase their attacking options.
Sneijder will have heard all about Spurs from Netherlands team mate Rafael van der Vaart, who returned to Hamburg in the last transfer window after two decent years at White Hart Lane.
However, Van der Vaart's failure to really impose himself at Spurs could lead Sneijder to think again, although other English destinations look less obvious despite Dutch players normally settling well in the Premier League.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has been criticised like never before by his own fans for the other north London side's struggles this term and signings are likely next month.
However, with Cazorla putting in some mesmeric performances in the "hole" and Jack Wilshere impressing after a long spell out with injury, Arsenal are unlikely to upset their wage hierarchy by aiming for Sneijder - especially as Wenger seems set on a new ploy of promoting fresh English talent.
Third-placed Chelsea boast Mata, Frank Lampard, Eden Hazard and Oscar while Liverpool languishing in 10th in the league may not appeal to the former Real Madrid and Ajax Amsterdam man despite their five European Cups and vivid history.
Fifth-placed city rivals Everton do not have a wealth of funds but for a bargain eight million, Sneijder could light up a first stint in England with his ability to play perfect first-time passes in one of the world's fastest leagues.
(Editing by Tom Pilcher)